LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The Clark County School District reports at least 20 students have died by suicide since distance education started last March. That number has more than doubled from 2019.
Many families who are still grieving the sudden losses of their loved ones spoke with 8 News Now Reporter Cristen Drummond about moving forward. They told her various factors contributed to their child’s untimely deaths, but they also singled in on one issue: Isolation during distance learning.
Of all of the families Cristen spoke with, only one person spoke to her on camera. Darlene Terryberry is a grandmother who lost her granddaughter to suicide.
Terryberry said she is speaking because she wants to remind the community that these children are not just a statistic; she also hopes that her words and experience will help another family avoid the grief and pain she is experiencing now.
“I wouldn’t want anybody to go through this,” Terryberry said.
Terryberry stayed strong while reflecting on her granddaughter, who was also her heart and soul — Angel Terryberry.
“She was a beautiful girl,” said Terryberry. “She had a kind soul. She just had a beautiful heart.”
Angel died of suicide by hanging on Oct. 3. Her grandmother found her in her room.
“I had touched her, and she was already cold, and so I knew,” Terryberry said.
Angel was a 17-year-old senior at Green Valley High School, and she had a passion for music.
“She loved the violin,” said Terryberry. “She played it from 6th grade on.”
Angel’s remains are in a butterfly urn at her grandmother’s house. Terryberry was given custody of Angel and her siblings when she was two years old.
Terryberry describes Angel as being shy and always thinking of others.
“Always wanted everyone to be ok. Never, wanted to let on that she wasn’t,” Terryberry said.
Cristen Drummond, reporter: “Did you ever notice a difference in her behavior?”
Darlene Terryberry, Angel’s grandmother: “No, not really. I didn’t.”
Terryberry says Angel initially adapted well to online learning in the Spring, but the isolation may have impacted her mental health by the fall.
“Going to school, she did have friends, and there were girls she could talk to or be around,” Terryberry said.
“She may have texted with them a little bit or something, but she didn’t have that relationship with them outside of school, o she missed that,” Terryberry said.
Cristen Drummond, reporter: “Do you think if we had gone back to the classroom, started hybrid learning in the fall or full-time, do you think Angel would still be here today?”
Terryberry: “I think there is a good chance, yes.”
Families who did not want to speak on camera say the loneliness from distance education was a likely contributing factor in their child’s death. According to some, their children staying home and not having an outlet at school became an issue.
A few of the parents said they noticed a difference in demeanor, but Terryberry said she didn’t.
“When I would see she wasn’t quite up. I just thought it was normal teenage stuff,” Terryberry said. If I had any inkling that there was more going on, I would’ve had her to a doctor in a heartbeat.”
According to Terryberry, it was a journal she found after Angel’s death that detailed some struggles. This led her to wonder how long Angel may have been contemplating suicide.
“I don’t think I ignored things; I just didn’t see them,” Terryberry said. “But, maybe I should’ve pushed harder to get her to talk and open up.”
It’s a mistake Terryberry says she does not want another family to make.
“If they look a little depressed or there is anything, don’t pass it off,” Terryberry said. Really look and do what you can.”